Lid lifts on local currency corporate debt with index launch
Local currency debt markets took a step forward this week with the launch of a dedicated index for the asset class
Bank of America Merrill Lynch unveiled a suite of four
indices tracking non-sovereign, euro-clearable bonds
denominated in EM currencies on Wednesday.
The Diversified Local Emerging Market Non-Sovereign Index,
LOCL, is the most appropriate of the four to be a performance
benchmark, says Phil Galdi, research analyst at BAML, because
it has a larger minimum size requirement for issues to be
included, and has caps on currency and issuer weightings. It
also excludes Sukuk.
Those caps mean close to a third of the index is made up of
Latin American credits - compared to just a 9% composition in
the market-weighted index.
Brazilian real bonds had a 13.04% weight in the LOCL index
at the end of September, Colombian peso notes 8%, and Mexican
peso debt, 7.95%. Paper issued by Empresas Públicas
Medellín, Banco Safra and Red de Carreteras de Occidente
are in the highest-weighted grouping in the index - at 2% each
- alongside LatAm's best-known borrowers such as América
Móvil and Pemex.
Around $264 billion worth of non-sovereign EM local currency
debt outstanding is Euroclearable - just a small slice of the
$4.2 trillion equivalent that BAML calculates is outstanding in
total. As such, the launch of this index is a small step to
further develop the local currency markets for international
The lack of an index - which provides pricing transparency
and a reference point - had held back the development of a
market in locally-denominated corporate bonds, investors told
"Until now, we have grappled with not having a reference
index to measure performance in this market," says Matt
Claeson, portfolio manager at Compass Group. The LatAm-focused
firm and its affiliates manage roughly $6 billion of assets,
including in a dedicated LatAm corporate local currency fund.
"This is a significant step forward - the market has needed a
reference point to help it grow."
Local currency debt has widened sharply since the US Federal
Reserve began discussing an end to its quantitative easing
program in May. The LOCL index yield has moved from around 6%
to close to 8%, according to BAML data. LF